alan menken, audra mcdonald, beauty and the beast, bill condon, dan stevens, disney, emma thompson, emma watson, ewan mcgregor, film review, gugu mbatha-raw, hattie morahan, howard ashman, ian mckellen, josh gad, kevin kline, luke evans, movie review, nathan mack, stanley tucci, tim rice, walt disney
I don’t think any other review of mine on this blog has been more anticipated by you readers than today’s own! Knowing how I feel about these live-action remakes, in general, and knowing how the 1991 animated film is my favorite Disney film of all time, you can imagine that I have a lot to say regarding this remake! So without further ado, let’s delve into the Beauty and the Beast remake!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film opens up to a lavish party taking place at the Prince’s castle.
The Prince, played by Dan Stevens, lives a luxurious life and like many princes, his heart isn’t as open and loving as one would wish for! This is evident when he turns away a poor, old woman, who sought shelter in his castle, because she was unattractive. This is a bad move as the woman reveals herself to be a beautiful enchantress! She places a curse on the Prince and all who live there: The Prince takes on a Beast-like form, the servants become household objects, and the local townspeople are made to forget about the existence of the castle, the Prince, and all in it!
(One thing that is evident about this remake from the very beginning is that it tries to “explain every plot hole from the original animated film”. For example, people always wondered that since the Beast was a prince, how did his kingdom just forget about him and the curse? And now we know why, they themselves have been cursed to forget! As the movie continues, we’ll see many more of these plot holes be explained!)
Anyway, the only way the spell can be broken is if the Beast learns to love a woman (and she him) before the last petal falls off of an enchanted rose.
We then cut to the nearby village many years later wherein our heroine, Belle, played by Emma Watson, leads us into the song, Belle. And let’s just say that I never knew what the word, “autotune” meant until I heard Emma Watson sing in this song!
As the song explains, Belle is your storybook-loving girl who wants more in life than this “poor, provincial town” can offer her. She’s also quite beautiful and is desired by the local war hero, Gaston, played by Luke Evans, to be his wife. He is incredibly handsome and loved by the ladies except for Belle, unfortunately. Belle considers Gaston to be arrogant and obsessed with himself, but honestly in this version, I didn’t really get that vibe from this Gaston. The Gaston in the animated film was definitely full of himself, but from what we’ve seen so far of this Gaston, I didn’t see any reason why Belle could dislike him so much!
Anyway, Belle’s father, Maurice, played by Kevin Kline, is a reclusive widower clockmaker. He’s headed to the market to sell his clock(s) and asks Belle what she wants him to bring back for her. She tells him to bring her back a rose like he does every year.
As Maurice heads on his way with his horse, Philippe, through the woods, he decides to take a shortcut. This proves unfruitful as he just ends up getting himself lost, confronting dangerous animals,
and eventually stumbling upon the enchanted castle hidden away in the woods.
He goes inside seeking help and shelter, but when he realizes that the objects are enchanted, he gets scared and leaves. But before he rides away, he remembers his promise to Belle, and picks a rose from the outside garden of the castle to take back to her.
However, the Beast catches Maurice doing this and locks him away for life in his dungeon for stealing.
Meanwhile, Philippe escapes back to Belle who notices that something is wrong. She then is taken by Philippe back to the castle where she finds that the Beast has imprisoned her father. She makes a deal with the Beast to let her take her father’s place and release Maurice. The Beast agrees to this, but Belle secretly has plans for escaping as soon as she gets the chance. You see, unlike the animated film, she doesn’t give her word to stay forever and she gets to say goodbye to her father, so the scene isn’t as emotional as it probably should have been.
As Belle spends more time in the castle, she meets the enchanted servants of the castle. There’s the candelabra, Lumiere, voiced by Ewan McGregor,
the majordomo mantel clock, Cogsworth, voiced by Ian McKellen,
the housekeeper teapot and her son, Chip, voiced by Emma Thompson and Nathan Mack, respectively,
the feather duster maid, Plumette, voiced by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a harpsichord, Maestro Cadenza, voiced by Stanley Tucci, his wardrobe wife, Madame de Garderobe, voiced by Audra McDonald, and their pet footstool, Frou-Frou.
They all do their best to make Belle feel at home and try to get Belle and the Beast to fall in love with each other. Belle wonders why the servants were cursed when it was the Prince who turned away the beggar woman? The servants tell her it’s because they witnessed him becoming a worse human being as he got older and didn’t do anything about it.
Meanwhile, back in the village, Gaston is depressed that Belle had rejected his proposal of marriage earlier and his loyal sidekick, LeFou, played by Josh Gad, cheers him up with a rendition of the song, Gaston. Unlike the animated film, this song seems to just spring up out of nowhere, but it incorporates previously unheard lyrics, so it’s still a joy to listen to and watch.
After the song ends, Maurice bursts in trying to explain to the villagers how the Beast has Belle locked in a dungeon. Of course, nobody in town believes “Crazy Old Maurice”, but Gaston, eager to win the affection of his hope-to-be future father-in-law, volunteers to go with Maurice into the forest to find Belle.
Back at the castle, we’re treated to the showstopper of the film, my favorite Disney song of all time, Be Our Guest, performed by Lumiere! I must say they did a great job getting this song and all its visuals right! I feel this would have looked amazing in 3D!
Afterwards, Belle decides to explore the forbidden West Wing of the castle wherein lies the enchanted rose. The Beast is there and is angry/scared that Belle was about to do something to the rose to damn them all. He angrily tells her to get out, but it’s not as “out-of-control-ly” as the animated version where the Beast screams at Belle and breaks furniture. Belle runs away from the castle on Philippe and the enchanted objects try to stop her, but she manages to escape. Unluckily for her, she gets into trouble with some of the wolves outside, but the Beast comes to her aid and fights off the wolves. He’s injured from the attack, so Belle takes him back to the castle and nurses him back to health.
Meanwhile, Maurice is unable to relocate the castle in the woods and Gaston is getting more and more impatient with him. Gaston believes that Maurice has made all of this up and when Maurice tells Gaston that he’ll never let him marry Belle, Gaston gets angry! He knocks Maurice out and leaves him in the woods to be eaten by the wolves. With her father dead, Belle would have nobody to take care of her, forcing her to marry Gaston!
Back at the castle, Belle learns more about the Beast including more of his backstory. Apparently, the Beast’s mother died when he was very young and the Beast’s father was a cruel man who raised the Prince to be just like him. We get to hear one of the new songs, Days in the Sun, where all the characters sing about how they long for the days gone past again. It’s basically the Human Again of this remake, but (*unpopular opinion warning*), I actually like Human Again better.
As the days go by, Belle and the Beast talk with each other more and start to get closer. The Beast shows Belle his library and after seeing how much she loves it, he gives it to her as a gift. Their blossoming feelings for each other is apparent in their “duet”, Something There.
He even shows her a special time-and-space-traveling book that the Enchantress gave him which allows him to “travel” to different places and times. He lets Belle use it to find out what happened to her mother. She always knew that her mother was dead, but never knew how. She finds out that her mother died in Paris due to the plague. I honestly don’t really know what this scene had to do with anything as it didn’t affect any part of Belle’s character in any way! (As one of my friends told me, Belle knew her mother was dead already, so why does it matter how?) This scene felt incredibly pointless to me and could have easily been cut, in my opinion.
Getting back to Maurice, he’s later rescued by the mute hermit of the village, Agathe, played by Hattie Morahan, who finds him in the woods. After he’s revived, he heads back to the village and accuses Gaston in front of every one of leaving him to die in the woods! Gaston, however, convinces the townspeople that Maurice is mad and needs to be taken to the asylum.
Back at the castle, the Beast has asked Belle for a dance in the ballroom to which she agrees. The two get ready and as they dance, Mrs. Potts sings the famous Beauty and the Beast song. While not bad, I much prefer seeing the CAPS animation-style of the animated film over this one; it just seemed more magical.
After the dance, the Beast plans to tell Belle that he loves her. Before he can do that though, Belle mentions how she misses her father and the Beast decides to let her see her father via a special magic mirror. (Why he doesn’t just use the special magic book, I don’t know!) In the mirror, Belle sees that the villagers are putting her father into a wagon to be taken to the asylum. She realizes that her father needs help and the Beast allows her to leave the castle and go help her Maurice.
As she leaves, we get what is in my opinion, the best thing about this remake, an original song sung by the Beast entitled, Evermore, about how Belle will always impact him even though she’s no longer with him. It’s a sad moment as the Beast realizes that there went his last chance to be free from the curse as the last petal is soon to fall from the enchanted rose. I’m calling it from now: this song will win Best Original Song at next year’s Academy Awards (unless The Greatest Showman gives us something better)!
Belle makes it to the village in time and shows everyone via the magic mirror how everything Maurice has said is true. Gaston uses this opportunity though to convince the villagers that the Beast is dangerous and needs to be killed. They lock Belle with her father in the asylum wagon so they can’t go off to warn the Beast while they all get their weapons ready to storm the castle. As they march toward the castle (the location whereof Gaston discovers via the magic mirror), we get the blood-riling song, The Mob Song.
Luckily, Maurice is good with lock mechanisms and manages to pick the lock of the wagon freeing both him and Belle. Belle then rushes back to the castle on Philippe before it’s too late!
Meanwhile, Gaston and the villagers have infiltrated the castle which seems a bit quiet at first, but the enchanted objects spring to life and give the villagers a fight that they deserve! Almost all the villagers run away defeated, but Gaston trudges up the castle and attempts to kill the Beast when he finds him.
The Beast, too depressed about Belle leaving, seems to be losing the bout, but when Belle reappears at the castle, the Beast regains his drive and overpowers Gaston. He almost kills Gaston, but the Beast’s new, kind heart prevents him from doing that and instead lets Gaston go. This proves to be a bad move as Gaston shoots the Beast from the back. Right afterwards, Gaston falls to his death below when a piece of the castle that he’s standing on crumbles beneath him.
The Beast appears to die which causes Belle to cry and tell him that she loves him. The last petal falls and all seems lost as all the enchanted objects say their goodbyes to each other and turn into inanimate knickknacks. But, in walks Agathe who turns out to be the enchantress from the beginning of the film!
She sees that the Beast has learned to love and ends the curse once and for all! The Beast awakens back in his human form as do the servants. The villagers regain their memory of the castle and the Prince and rush there to meet everyone again. Mrs. Potts is reunited with her husband from the village, Cogsworth is reunited with his wife from the village, and Belle and the Beast truly live happily ever after!
And that was the Beauty and the Beast remake! Boy, do I have a lot to say about this movie. First off, is it a bad movie? You know, honestly, it does what it set out to do. It intends to tell the fairy tale of the beautiful girl who falls in love with a cursed beast and it does just that. The film itself is overall a well-made film with wonderful visuals, great acting performances, and of course, a great soundtrack despite the autotuned singing.
(One other new song that I didn’t mention was How Does a Moment Last Forever which is first sung by Maurice and describes the relationship he and his wife had. Belle sings it again later when she finds out the truth of how her mother died.)
However, this movie does have many problems and the biggest problem, to me, at least, is that the movie is not enjoyable. The film seems to be fully mechanical without worrying about imbuing magic and charm into it. It tries to check off multiple things from a list (tell the story, check, fix all the plot holes from the animated film, check) that the emotional connection of the film is lost.
The film also suffers from an identity disorder where it doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be. It wants to stay true to the animated film, but it also struggles with trying to make changes to it. I still believe that the whole “magic book” scene was a deus ex machina that added nothing to Belle’s character development or overall plot.
Speaking of Belle, another issue I had is that the characters of Belle and the Beast were written differently compared to the animated film, as if they’re different characters. One of the biggest examples of this, to me, is the scene where Belle discovers that her father is being taken to the asylum. In the animated film, when Belle realizes that her father may be dying in the woods, the Beast doesn’t automatically give her permission to leave. He ruminates the decision and you can see it in his eyes and hand as he passes it over the glass enclosure where the rose is being kept. After a few seconds, only then does he tell her to go to her father, and that he even does hesitantly!
In this film, as soon as Belle mentions that her father needs her help, the Beast gives her permission to leave as if there were no question about it! That definitely is not something the Beast I know would have done.
Also in this film, Belle doesn’t thank the Beast for saving her life from the wolves until way later on in the film. In the animated film, she thanks him once she gets him back to the castle. They just seem like two different Belles to me!
And I guess I need to briefly mention something about this whole gay “controversy” with LeFou. Honestly, the scene that started this whole controversy is literally a 2-second scene where LeFou dances with another guy. That’s it! It is incredibly short and not worthy of being boycotted! Had the media not made a big deal about it, that scene would have just gone under everyone’s noses and nothing would have been made of it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pro-gay marriage, anti-gay marriage, or whatever, that’s your business. But, something we all can agree on is that the scene in this movie just isn’t worth having a controversy over!
Summing up, the movie honestly doesn’t have incredibly MAJOR problems. They’re not minor problems, by any means, but they’re somewhere between minor and major. My feelings for this film are similar to my feelings for the 2016 The Jungle Book remake. Objectively, it’s a well-made film with problems, of course, but it’s not a film that I personally “enjoyed” watching. Technically, it hits all the right notes, but personally, it just falls flat for me. I don’t have any desire to watch it again, at least not anytime soon.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
The next review will be posted on July 24, 2017.
BONUS: I recorded myself (badly) singing Evermore as I loved the song so much. Feel free to give it a listen if you don’t mind your eardrums dying.